TEA Connect Blog

24 September 2020

Chuck Fawcett becomes TEA International Board President in November 2020

In November 2020, Chuck Fawcett of Animax Designs will become the new International Board President of the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA), succeeding Michael Blau of Adirondack Studios. 

“One of my key personal passions is bringing people together and making new connections, and I've been absolutely amazed at how much our industry has changed and grown in the three decades since I founded my business,” Fawcett says. Thirty-one years ago, in November 1989 as a senior graduating from Vanderbilt University, he was founding Animax, which is headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. The company designs and manufactures animatronic figures, interactive characters and puppets for themed and location-based entertainment.

  • Press inquiries: Contact Judith Rubin, TEA Communications. Interviews with Chuck Fawcett about his new role at TEA may be granted starting in November 2020.

We asked Chuck Fawcett a few questions to help TEA members get to know more about the experience and perspective he brings to the assocation.

Chuck Fawcett at the TEA Thea Awards, with wife Renee

Tell us about your involvement with TEA over the years and how it has helped prepare you to be TEA International Board President.

I was always aware of the TEA by name and reputation, but it was not until I went to my first TEA mixer in 2015 where I discovered what an amazing and personal association the TEA truly was. As I started to get to know people, I realized I could compare notes on clients, hear about project opportunities through the grapevine and talk to small business owners like me who wanted to discuss the complexities of negotiating contracts, or how to hire contractors. The value of the TEA hit me square in the face. 

In 2016, I joined the TEA Eastern North America Division Board. I was a very active board member helping to plan events and expand awareness of the TEA. In 2018 I was part of TEA Past President Steve Birket’s Business Development Committee which helped create the TEA Presidents Forums. Melissa Ruminot (former TEA Eastern Division Board President) invited me into a Vice President role where I continued to focus on membership growth, events, mixers and other content. 

At IAAPA Expo Orlando, volunteer leaders of the TEA Eastern North America Division: 
Then-president of the Division Board Melissa Ruminot (center) with her two vice presidents, 
Trent Oliver (now Eastern Board president) and Chuck Fawcett.

In 2019 I joined the TEA International Board of Directors with the specific goal of getting involved with the TEA at a more strategic level.

My company has been a regular and generous corporate sponsor for the TEA SATE and TEA Summit conferences and the TEA International Mixer at IAAPA Expo, and we continue to be a vigorous supporter of the TEA NextGen Initiative.

For me the core value proposition of the TEA is the membership base, it's the people, and without them we would not be the TEA. Based on that everything that I will do as TEA International Board President will have that filter in front of it.

Chuck, with the Warner Bros. team at the Animax Designs 30 Year Anniversary Celebration - IAAPA, 2019

What are some life lessons you bring to your role at TEA? 

The most important life lessons that I have learned and bring to the TEA would center around three themes. The importance of good communication, the joy of connecting people, and the value of giving back and lifting people up. 

So many conflicts happen in this world when smart people try to communicate “at” each other when the solution really lies in doing a better job of listening. The only way to truly understand another person, especially when it comes to a difficult topic or if you are dealing with someone from another culture, is to listen and learn. Do this and you will be rewarded! When you combine listening with clear written and verbal communication you can't go wrong. 

Chuck Fawcett with Sir Richard Taylor of Weta Workshop

One of my key personal passions is bringing people together and making new connections, and in TEA we do this on a global stage. The TEA has given me a tremendous opportunity to exercise this passion, where I have learned so much about our business and the critical nature of people and meaningful relationships. As TEA President, I look forward to doing even more of that on behalf of the association and our members.

And finally, there is the value of giving back. It is hard for me to describe the joy that comes from helping others and especially those that are just starting out in their careers or those folks who need an ally that understands the value of having diversity represented at the table in all of its forms. I am very aware of the enormous social responsibility that comes with the roles that I have occupied and I now look forward to continuing to give back and help lift up more people in our industry.

One of our new themes coming from the TEA focuses on building a greater member engagement through the message “Connect – Communicate - Contribute.”  That slogan perfectly captures my philosophy of life and is truly the secret to the success of any organization.

A succession of TEA International Board Presidents at the Seattle Space Needle during the
TEA SATE Seattle conference - left to right, Michael Mercadante of Main Street Design,
Michael Blau of Adirondack Studios, Chuck Fawcett of Animax Designs

What is the special something (in terms of aptitude, perspective, experience) that you bring to this new responsibility? 

I would say that my “superpower” and the secret to my success is eternal and unwavering optimism. Moments of failure (and I have had a lot of them) teach you everything you need to know about how to be a good leader, how to run a business, manage people and survive through sudden change and seismic shifts in the universe.

I believe that anyone can achieve great things in this world through hard work, patience, and the ability to channel their inner confidence. The key is to make the decision that you are going to be successful, to choose optimism, and then fully commit and don’t let anything stand in your way. That is why I love to mentor people. I feel that instilling that message, and especially with our youth, is the most powerful gift that you can give to anyone.

Right now, and especially in a world that is plagued by COVID-19 we need a cheerleader with a strong message of optimism coming from a place of strength. We also need empathy for those that are less fortunate than us, and now more than ever, an extra level of sensitivity for everyone around us.  People need hope and positive leadership that they can count on, and a message that says YES, the future is bright, and success is on the horizon and if we stick together, we will get there. The TEA has a major opportunity to emerge from COVID-19 as a true thought leader in our industry and I intend to put all my energy behind that mission.

With colleagues at a TEA behind-the-scenes visit to Meow Wolf in Santa Fe, New Mexico

What do you consider some of the most important things TEA does for the industry?

The TEA more than any other organization does the best job of bringing together a professional network of companies, resources and people who provide mutual business opportunities for one another. These are the creators, financiers, buyers and builders of global Location Based Entertainment. 

Just as important, TEA provides a valuable social network for people to make first contact and then remain connected within our industry. These personal connections often turn into long-lasting and meaningful relationships with many fond memories of sharing amazing experiences together. I am a testament to that as many of my closest friendships have originated within the TEA which I will value for a lifetime. 

The other very important thing that the TEA does is to identify, recognize and celebrate great projects, people and technology through the Thea Awards, the most prestigious honor in our industry. The Thea Award represents the pinnacle of success and the best that our membership has to offer in terms of cutting edge and immersive themed entertainment as well as individuals that have earned their place of honor in our industry.

Showing off an Animax puppet creation from The Secret Life of Pets,  2016

What would you say to someone facing career or business challenges in our industry right now about how being part of the TEA community can help them move forward?

One of the greatest strengths of the TEA from its very beginnings was the concept of like-minded industry people banding together - sometimes to celebrate and other times to commiserate - but either way we are always better together. So, if there is one thing that a tragedy or crisis teaches us is the importance of community.

We have never seen anything like this pandemic in our lifetimes and hope that we will never see this again. Until it does pass, you will continue to see a very personal and supportive side of the TEA that is here to welcome in all members that are dealing with their own very difficult financial, medical and psychological challenges. For those people who are not currently TEA members but want to be, we encourage you to reach out and connect with us. We are a community that embraces diversity and differences across a wide spectrum of people, and we are here to help one another.  I would simply say to you, don't give up and continue to believe in our industry and make the most of the support that TEA provides, and we will truly get through this together.

Where it all started for Chuck Fawcett - building puppets and producing shows at the age of 12

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Spare time? What’s that?? No, seriously, I am somebody who can't really sit still, and my mind is always at work, dreaming up new ideas and ways to improve things, or chasing new business opportunities. I've been at this since I was 12 years old and I absolutely love what I do, so the fact that I make a living by doing so is just incredible to me!

I would say my biggest true hobby is traveling and exploring the world. I love to travel, to meet new people and see exotic new places. I also love experiencing new cultures, meeting people, speaking the language, and learning about their traditions and customs. I guess I picked the right career? One that affords me fantastic travel opportunities so I can live out my most enjoyable hobby through my “work.”

Besides that, I love anything that is fast! Fast cars, fast planes, fast boats, fast anything is my weakness. I love good design, sculpture and architecture. I also love to ski, scuba dive and occasionally hit a golf ball. I try to spend as much time as possible with my wife Renee and four beautiful children playing basketball, swimming, biking, boating, and yes traveling. 


Posted by Judith Rubin



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